On the 28th January, I went to an early morning session hosted by Birmingham Leaders on Devolution. The Lunar Society and Aston University were reporting on the start of their project to build a fact based case for greater devolution to Birmingham and the West Midlands. For too long decisions are made in London affecting our city and the whole conurbation. Those decisions are made by those who “judge” what we need, and then decide what we are “allowed” to have. Do these decision-makers have the day to day knowledge of what works here? Or is it a form of English colonialism on the West Midlands – a region whose economy is larger than the country of Denmark!
Perhaps we should ask the question of why it is that we have to obtain HM Treasury approval to invest in our own future? In the last couple of weeks, we had the Chancellor of Exchequer pay a magisterial visit to our city to distribute largesse in the form of M5 widening, some rail electrification, and an already announced extension of the role of the LEP on training and apprenticeships. Aren’t these types of visits a bit like the colonial viceroy distributing awards and privileges to the favoured
And the difficult task of ensuring that our city and conurbation is managed on a day to day basis lies with our own local decision-makers (or should!). But they don’t have the full panoply of powers necessary to explore all the funding options to follow through on the city’s plans.
Perhaps we should discuss whether HM Treasury is the benign influence it pretends to be on devolution. It is certainly one of those central government departments whose presence is never questioned.
But what exactly is its purpose? What is its constitutional role? I hope to explore this further in my blog!
But coming back to the 28 January #ThinkBirmingham event, I pulled together a brief on #ThinkBirmingham storify to pull together some of the tweets from that day. Perhaps we will get to a much more sustainable set of funding and powers which are determined locally and not by HM Treasury colonialists from afar.
I believe this will also begin to restore interest in local democracy which has been so badly bludgeoned by the centralisation of powers, funding and responsibilities.